Comfortable, solid and benefitting from superb club and specialist support, the 120-series Volvo (nicknamed the ‘Amazon’) is a usable and easy to own gem that still holds lots of classic appeal.
The first four door Saloon appeared in 1956, the two-door in 1961 and an estate (221) came along in 1962. The first examples featured a somewhat asthmatic single Stromberg carb 1583cc engine which is why it makes sense to set your sights on the altogether better B18 (1778cc) which arrived in 1961, and preferably the 1964-on model which had the bonus of standard front discs. The two-door models received a 1986cc engine in 1968, a year after the four-door was discontinued, and the last ones rolled off the production line in 1970. The icing on the cake of course for anyone wanting to use an Amazon for longer journeys is to find one with overdrive, which further adds to the refinement on offer.
The most desirable model was the 115bhp 123GT, which borrowed its running gear from the 1800S, but it’s rare, soughtafter and runners are outside our £10,000 price limit – so opt for the sporty twin SU 122S instead.
Assured, stable and in many respects very much like a modern car in its ability of being able to eat up the miles at the legal limit, cars after 1965 even had ‘medically idealised’ seats for added comfort. From 1968, dual circuit brakes were fitted too for extra peace of mind.
The Volvo’s longevity means its survival rate is good and everything’s available relatively cheaply from a wide range of specialist sources.
When buying, front chassis rot can render an Amazon a write-off but otherwise there shouldn’t be too many worries and various repair panels makes a restoration feasible. A sound car with an MoT will begin at £6000, but you’ll need at least £8000 for a nice estate. Only the lowest mileage, concours cars will be beyond our budget – otherwise, there’s something to suit all pockets.
- Front wings rot around the headlamps, but they bolt on so can be replaced. Rust in the inner wings is more serious, especially if it’s around the battery box. Look for corrosion too in door bottoms, sills, the boot floor and ‘arches.
- Watch for rot in the front section of the chassis – it’s difficult to repair and the costs can often render a car worthless. The worst hit areas include the front outriggers, the engine cradle and the radiator crossmember.
- Engines are strong but watch for worn fibre cam gears. You can fit steel ones, but they are noisier.
- Don’t underestimate the cost of replacing rusty bumpers – good quality items are pricey.
- Make sure the interior is complete as getting trim for the early cars is becoming difficult. Later cars are generally better in this regard, especially ones with the stronger B18 engine.
Volvo ‘Amazon’ saloon – from £1750 (condition 3) to £12,000 (condition 1)
Volvo ‘Amazon’ 2-door – from £2000 (condition 3) to £12,500 (condition 1)
Volvo ‘Amazon’ estate – from £2500 (condition 3) to £14,000 (condition 1)
See more CLASSIC CAR BUYER’S GUIDES